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Sleep Fuels Creativity

Inspired by trailblazing women who stand at the intersection of art and design, we always want to know more about their work and, of course, the way in which sleep and dreams inspire them. This month, our Artist Series welcomes Victoria Kastner, an author, lecturer, and architectural historian who has brought to our attention one such trailblazer. In Julia Morgan:  An Intimate Biography of the Trailblazing Architect, Victoria details the life of the architect who designed Hearst Castle.

Having served as the official historian of Hearst Castle for more than twenty years and written the definitive trilogy of Hearst Castle, Victoria was uniquely situated to write the biography of its architect. We were delighted to learn more about Victoria and the role sleep plays in her days and her work.

1.    Who are you and what do you do?

I am an author and lecturer, who has written four books and numerous articles—all of which are about extraordinary people and the art and architecture they create. I have an M.A. in public history—with a specialty in architectural history—from UC Santa Barbara, as well as an M.A. in museum management from George Washington University.

I live on the central coast of California—halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco—near Hearst Castle at San Simeon, where I worked for decades as its official historian. I grew up in the hills north of Berkeley, surrounded by beautiful buildings—which I suspect is why I became an architectural historian.

2.    What inspires you and informs your art?

I am inspired by creative artists who don’t let societal limitations or personal difficulties discourage them.  In spite of obstacles, they always find a way to succeed. I am currently working on an article about the incomparable Fred Astaire—dancer, singer, choreographer, and composer extraordinaire.

I am also on a speaking tour for my most recent book: Julia Morgan: An Intimate Biography of the Trailblazing Architect, published by Chronicle Books. Julia Morgan was the brilliant architect who designed Hearst Castle—and approximately 700 other buildings—during the first half of the 20th century. The American Institute of Architects recently awarded her their highest honor—the Gold Medal—for her many contributions to architecture. She was their first female recipient in 100 years.

3.    What is your dream project, assuming no financial or time limitations?

I would like to teach young people everywhere—particularly aspiring artists—about Julia Morgan. Her life story shows us that challenging circumstances don’t need to limit us or define us. We can dream big (and dreaming is often done in bed!), then work hard to bring those dreams to life.

At down etc, we believe sleep informs what we do when we are awake. It provides the rest we need to create, and it can bring the dreams that become the focus of our creations. We’re always curious about the artists who inspire us and how they sleep, from the rituals they use to prepare for bed to the bedroom environment they create for themselves. That led us to ask Victoria a few questions about how she sleeps.

4.    Do you sleep only at night, or do you take naps during the day?

I often nap during the day, because I often write at night—sometimes all night, if I have a pressing deadline.

5.    What are your nighttime rituals: How do you prepare for bed? Do you drink tea, meditate, read, or something else?

I can’t imagine falling asleep without reading. A lifelong habit.

6.    What is your sleep environment?

a.     Do you need the room completely dark? Does that require a sleep mask?

I often write in bed—thank goodness for laptops!—so I need enough light to see the keyboard.

b.     What type of sheets and bedding do you prefer?

I like crisp cotton sheets and white goose-down comforters.

c.     What is your favorite down etc product?

My favorite down etc product is their cashmere hat. If my head and my feet are warm, I’m happy.

7.    How does sleep figure into your work/art? Can you feel/see the difference in your day/work/art when you have slept badly or well?

When I was fourteen, I read a sentence that I can still remember: “The most perfect climate in the world is bed.” A well-appointed bed is better—and more personalized—than any chair. I like to sleep in bed, but I also like to be awake in bed—while reading, and also while writing—since it is the most comfortable place I know.

Bonus Question: What superpower would you have and why?

My superpower would be to entertain a constant flow of guests in my home—and cook for them all—and beautifully appoint their rooms with down etc bedding!

-The Team at down etc


Learn more about Victoria and her work

Victoria spent years studying Julia Morgan’s work and papers to reveal the complex individual behind the legacy of structures she designed, including schools, churches, hospitals, and “grandly opulent estates.” We can’t think of anything better than to curl up with this book to be awed by the stories of a unique woman who adapted her extensive skills to meet and exceed the desires of her clients.

Website: www.victoriakastner.com

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